The arrival of 2019 was celebrated with excitement almost everywhere. However, it came with increased prices of food commodities like beef which rose by Shs 2,000 in many towns.
Food prices keep going up, it would seem, every passing year. A number of factors are said to cause the rising food prices, including our unplanned population growth, the country’s rapid urbanisation and an expanding class of well off people that consume animal protein foodstuffs.
The Africa Agriculture Status Report (AAS) commissioned in 2017 by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) points out, “Africa’s recent pattern of growth, based on urbanisation without industrialisation has increased rather than reduced the need for an agricultural transformation.”
More people working in urban centres and others in salaried employment elsewhere are taking up farming as a way of reducing their expenditure on food and earning extra income from selling farm products.
The report further says, “With the increasing number in urban population, there is a growing demand for traditional food and also a shift to processed foods. Apart from the urban population boom, the number of people earning higher incomes has also increased. The challenge is that with such increase, there is a shift in preferences to processed foods which are expected to increase five- to 10 fold between 2010 and 2040. It is this shift that puts a burden on farmers to produce more while incorporating the latest technological advances.” Smallholder farmers of whom 80 per cent produce food are expected to tap into this windfall.
The latest technological advances include the use of mobile phones by urban dwellers to pay labourers working far away in rural areas and to buy inputs. Mobile phones may also be used to search for markets and to access weather forecasts.
Farmers will also need to plant high yielding, drought tolerant and disease resistant crop varieties.
The government should provide an enabling environment by allocating at least 10 per cent of its national budget to agriculture as per the Maputo Declaration. Rwanda and Ethiopia which adopted the Maputo Declaration guidelines are praised in the AAS report for their high agricultural achievements.